Category Archives: Economics & Democracy

Freedom

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242 years ago, a group of men were forced to declare the independence of the lands they held.  Three things they agreed were priorities were to protect life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  They had to be willing to die.

Jefferson

Since then those lands have grown.  And the people have increased to over 300 million.  And the heirs of those men have had to share the priorities with women, and the families of freed slaves.  And its been a fight.  Sometimes more violent of a fight than the original revolution that began our nation.  Sometimes a much longer fight.  One that’s lasted generations.

 

On the eve of the anniversary of the declaration of independence, can you say what your priorities are?  Are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness your main desires?  If so, what would it look like for you?

 

Life

To have a family, in whatever form we choose, in a home wherever we can afford to live safely, with the ability to educate ourselves to our maximum potential.

Liberty

To have beneficial relationships with those around us, the ability and opportunity to accumulate wealth, to create community, to make positive change in our world, to be able to decide how and by whom we are governed.

The Pursuit of Happiness

To take part in an economy that allows us to spend quality time doing the things we like with and for one another.

Anniversaries

Anniversaries are a chance to think about the past, present and future.  Consider where we have been.  Recognize where we are.  Figure out how to get where we want to go.  Can we talk about where we are in relationship to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?  Then work on where we should so next?

Can you talk about your priorities?

two man and two woman standing on green grass field
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Final Declaration

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

 

Let’s Play Two

Part 1 of a 4 part series on baseball, culture and social change

Much has been written about the pastime of baseball and the connection that it has to national culture.  I will endeavor to add to the discourse.

I appreciate both participatory and spectator sports, I know many people might not share such passions.  Of sports, baseball, for me, singularly stands above all the others.  My experience is that if you play baseball, you learn its pleasures, which to the uninitiated, may be impossible to describe.  You also know that a baseball player is simultaneously  a spectator.  In the dugout, awaiting your turn at bat, you watch the action, as the ramifications of what takes place will impact your potential contributions to the game.  On defense, in the field, you’re found waiting and watching plays that you aren’t directly involved in.  Eight position players watch the confrontation between pitcher and batter, prepared to spring in to action in a split second.

Major League Baseball, for many, offers the best of what the sport has to offer.  It has the best practitioners, the best facilities, concessions, and perhaps the best atmosphere.  One reason the sport as a whole and MLB in particular have been significantly woven into the fabric of our culture is that it has evolved alongside modern American history from the time of its earliest introduction in the 1800s.

Here let’s touch on slavery.

Some would argue that slavery has been in existence in various forms throughout human history.  I would argue for the premise that an aspect of slavery exists within a symbiotic relationship.  The slave and slaveowner share a commonality.  The lives of both slave and slaveowner are closely connected.  They have a shared priority, that being the quality of life of the slaveowner.  Wrong or right, for worse or for better, there are potentially more damaging things than slavery.  “Racial” segregation is one.

Slavery has as a fundamental characteristic, the role of status.  The single dividing aspect between slave and slaveowner is social status.  Remove status, and you are left with equals.  I will not assert that people are basically equal, but I offer this fact, all people can be treated as equals.  “Racial” segregation, on the other hand has no such purity, for it assumes people are different, and by implication are not equal, therefore should not be treated equally.  It also assumes that these “different” people prefer to be separated from those who are “different” from them and integrated with those who are not.

Here is where it is not equal by any measure.  Segregation means you will have no part of my life.  I will have no part of your life.  You are denied the experience of everything that I contribute to our culture, and I am deprived of everything you and your’s contribute.  To the extent that people are not equal, winners and losers are born out of the denial of access that segregation causes.  What is the implication in the difference created with segregation?  If you are a slave you have value to the slaveowner’s life. If you are part of a segregated “race” you have no such value whatever.  By extension you are of no value.  If anything, you are a detriment.  Welcome to my neighborhood.  Segregation was the flawed solution to our post-slave society.

Back to baseball. 83706691-AEC5-4C8B-803F-0F1BFE89E075

Our sport existed for a time in a state of separate organized competitive leagues.  There were Negro leagues because baseball was completely segregated well into the 20th Century.  MLB is a prosperous multi billion dollar industry today.  The Negro leagues collapsed long before the first African American player was allowed into MLB in 1947.  The success of professional baseball relative to other forms of entertainment is often underestimated.

The prosperity of the nation has parallels to the expansion of professional baseball. Thirty cities house major league franchises.  That is double the number of the original 1876 league of clubs.  There are close to 240 minor league professional teams.  Their existence allows the profession to permeate throughout the country in the small towns and communities which lack the population density to fill 50,000 plus seat stadiums 81 days each year.  Revenue is generated from live attendance of games at every level. Concessions, souvenirs/memorabilia (including licensing and merchandising of same), advertising, and broadcast media involve an almost exponential income stream.  Forbes estimates the current value of the Los Angeles Dodgers franchise at $3 billion.

The first modern renaissance of the segregated MLB was highlighted by the career of home run champion George Herman ‘Babe’ Ruth who’s 1927 New York Yankees are considered by many to be the greatest team of all time.  Flash back to the the economic frivolity of the 1920’s, which culminated with the crash of the New York Stock Exchange in 1929, signaling the beginnings of the Great Depression.

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Fast forward through three wars and several economic and political crises to arrive at perhaps the historical peak of the sport.  The integrated MLB of the 1980s decade not only had the best American players but a significant number from foreign countries.  By the end of the decade close to 15% of the player pool was foreign born.  1993 reached a significant demographic milestone when the percentage of foreign players equaled that of African American players.  Today, 228 players from 13 different countries comprise 27% of the league.  While the number of African Americans has decreased to 68 players, less than 8%.  In part two of this series, I will discuss some of the theories for these numbers and try to determine what role segregation played, if any.

Prepared text of the 2016 Stanford Commencement address by Ken Burns | Stanford News

 

Excerpt of Ken Burns Stanford Commencement Address

Our spurious sovereignty is reinforced and perpetually underscored to our obvious and great comfort, but this kind of existence actually ingrains in us a stultifying sameness that rewards conformity (not courage), ignorance and anti-intellectualism (not critical thinking). This wouldn’t be so bad if we were just wasting our own lives, but this year our political future depends on it. And there comes a time when I – and you – can no longer remain neutral, silent. We must speak up – and speak out.

“We must remain committed to the kindness and community that are the hallmarks of civilization.”

—KEN BURNS

For 216 years, our elections, though bitterly contested, have featured the philosophies and character of candidates who were clearly qualified. That is not the case this year. One is glaringly not qualified. So before you do anything with your well-earned degree, you must do everything you can to defeat the retrograde forces that have invaded our democratic process, divided our house, to fight against, no matter your political persuasion, the dictatorial tendencies of the candidate with zero experience in the much maligned but subtle art of governance; who is against lots of things, but doesn’t seem to be for anything, offering only bombastic and contradictory promises, and terrifying Orwellian statements; a person who easily lies, creating an environment where the truth doesn’t seem to matter; who has never demonstrated any interest in anyone or anything but himself and his own enrichment; who insults veterans, threatens a free press, mocks the handicapped, denigrates women, immigrants and all Muslims; a man who took more than a day to remember to disavow a supporter who advocates white supremacy and the Ku Klux Klan; an infantile, bullying man who, depending on his mood, is willing to discard old and established alliances, treaties and long-standing relationships. I feel genuine sorrow for the understandably scared and – they feel – powerless people who have flocked to his campaign in the mistaken belief that – as often happens on TV – a wand can be waved and every complicated problem can be solved with the simplest of solutions. They can’t. It is a political Ponzi scheme. And asking this man to assume the highest office in the land would be like asking a newly minted car driver to fly a 747.

As a student of history, I recognize this type. He emerges everywhere and in all eras. We see nurtured in his campaign an incipient proto-fascism, a nativist anti-immigrant Know Nothing-ism, a disrespect for the judiciary, the prospect of women losing authority over their own bodies, African Americans again asked to go to the back of the line, voter suppression gleefully promoted, jingoistic saber rattling, a total lack of historical awareness, a political paranoia that, predictably, points fingers,always making the other wrong. These are all virulent strains that have at times infected us in the past. But they now loom in front of us again – all happening at once. We know from our history books that these are the diseases of ancient and now fallen empires. The sense of commonwealth, of shared sacrifice, of trust, so much a part of American life, is eroding fast, spurred along and amplified by an amoral Internet that permits a lie to circle the globe three times before the truth can get started.

We no longer have the luxury of neutrality or “balance,” or even of bemused disdain. Many of our media institutions have largely failed to expose this charlatan, torn between a nagging responsibility to good journalism and the big ratings a media circus always delivers. In fact, they have given him the abundant airtime he so desperately craves, so much so that it has actually worn down our natural human revulsion to this kind of behavior. Hey, he’s rich; he must be doing something right. He is not. Edward R. Murrow would have exposed this naked emperor months ago. He is an insult to our history. Do not be deceived by his momentary “good behavior.” It is only a spoiled, misbehaving child hoping somehow to still have dessert.

And do not think that the tragedy in Orlando underscores his points. It does not. We must “disenthrall ourselves,” as Abraham Lincoln said, from the culture of violence and guns. And then “we shall save our country.”

This is not a liberal or conservative issue, a red state, blue state divide. This is an American issue. Many honorable people, including the last two Republican presidents, members of the party of Abraham Lincoln, have declined to support him. And I implore those “Vichy Republicans” who haveendorsed him to please, please reconsider. We must remain committed to the kindness and community that are the hallmarks of civilization and reject the troubling, unfiltered Tourette’s of his tribalism.

The next few months of your “commencement,” that is to say, your future, will be critical to the survival of our Republic. “The occasion is piled high with difficulty.” Let us pledge here today that we will not let this happen to the exquisite, yet deeply flawed, land we all love and cherish – and hope to leave intact to our posterity. Let us “nobly save,” not “meanly lose, the last best hope of earth.”

Let me speak directly to the graduating class. Watch out. Here comes the advice.

Look. I am the father of four daughters. If someone tells you they’ve been sexually assaulted, take it effing seriously. And listen to them! Maybe, some day, we will make the survivor’s eloquent statement as important as Dr. King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail.

Try not to make the other wrong, as I just did with that “presumptive” nominee. Be for something.

Be curious, not cool. Feed your soul, too. Every day.

Remember, insecurity makes liars of us all. Not just presidential candidates.

Don’t confuse success with excellence. The poet Robert Penn Warren once told me that “careerism is death.”

Do not descend too deeply into specialism either. Educate all of your parts. You will be healthier.

Free yourselves from the limitations of the binary world. It is just a tool. A means, not an end.

Seek out – and have – mentors. Listen to them. The late theatrical director Tyrone Guthrie once said, “We are looking for ideas large enough to be afraid of again.” Embrace those new ideas. Bite off more than you can chew.

Travel. Do not get stuck in one place. Visit our national parks. Their sheer majesty may remind you of your own “atomic insignificance,” as one observer noted, but in the inscrutable ways of Nature, you will feel larger, inspirited, just as the egotist in our midst is diminished by his or her self-regard.

Insist on heroes. And be one.

Read. The book is still the greatest manmade machine of all – not the car, not the TV, not the smartphone.

Make babies. One of the greatest things that will happen to you is that you will have to worry – I mean really worry – about someone other than yourself. It is liberating and exhilarating. I promise. Ask your parents.

Do not lose your enthusiasm. In its Greek etymology, the word enthusiasm means simply, “God in us.”

Serve your country. Insist that we fight the right wars. Convince your government, as Lincoln knew, that the real threat always and still comes from within this favored land. Governments always forget that.

Insist that we support science and the arts, especially the arts. They have nothing to do with the actual defense of our country – they just make our country worth defending.

Believe, as Arthur Miller told me in an interview for my very first film on the Brooklyn Bridge, “believe, that maybe you too could add something that would last and be beautiful.”

And vote. You indelibly underscore your citizenship – and our connection with each other – when you do.

Good luck. And Godspeed.

 

Text of Commencement address

Source: Prepared text of the 2016 Stanford Commencement address by Ken Burns | Stanford News

Fortune Magazine Article: No Labels and America Let’s Continue the Conversation 

A copy of this article that appeared in Fortune Magazine is here in an effort to consider how we might continue the conversation to fix what’s wrong. Go to Nolabels.org for more.

60 Ways to Fix the Economy
Since we launched in 2010, No Labels has had a distinct focus: Bringing America’s leaders together to solve big problems.
For the past two years, No Labels has worked diligently to create a playbook for our next president that represents both good politics and good policy.
Working with our pro-bono partner Deloitte Consulting, No Labels conducted almost 20 policy workshops featuring policy experts, former senior government and military officials, and business and community leaders from across the political spectrum. Along the way we researched, debated and discussed hundreds of discrete policy proposals in areas including tax, budget, health care, Social Security and Medicare, investment and innovation, energy, education and regulation.
If an idea was deemed good policy in our workshops, No Labels took it straight to the people, conducting national polling to survey the American people’s feelings on strategic choices facing the country.
The end result is the No Labels Policy Playbook For America’s Next President, featuring 60 ideas, the vast majority of which poll above 60% overall and at least 50% among Democrats, Republicans and independents.
All 60 ideas are designed to help America reach four national goals focused on job creation, balancing the budget, securing Social Security and Medicare and achieving energy security.

GOAL #1: Create 25 Million New Jobs in the Next 10 Years
The Great Recession of 2008-2009 was so deep and damaging that total employment in the U.S. did not return to its pre-recession peak until May 2014. The American job market is in better shape than people think, with the U.S. unemployment rate dipping below 5% in 2016 and wages growing at the fastest rate in six years. But our next president and Congress can’t get complacent because there are still far too many American families who don’t feel an economic recovery.
Solving this problem will require a more creative and flexible response from the U.S. government—one that focuses on reform of taxes, education, workforce development, regulations and our infrastructure.


The U.S. isn’t sufficiently preparing our students for the job opportunities of the present or the future. College educations are often unaffordable, inaccessible or incomplete for many students. And a number of problems, including lack of effective worker training and expensive childcare, are conspiring to prevent far too many Americans from getting in and staying in the workforce.
The policy ideas below are designed to address all of these issues.

America’s roads, bridges, public transportation systems and electric and broadband infrastructure are in increasingly poor condition. The immigration system, a key component of a healthy economy, is broken. And while most Americans agree we need common sense rules and regulations to protect citizens, preserve our environment and promote public safety, the U.S. regulatory system is increasingly complex and incomprehensible and the costs are adding up.
Here are our ideas for tackling these issues.

GOAL #2: Secure Social Security and Medicare for the Next 75 Years
Social Security and Medicare are true lifelines for tens of millions of Americans. But these lifelines are fraying. Social Security and Medicare are not sustainable on their current trajectories due to the retirement of the enormous Baby Boom generation, falling birth rates and rising health care spending.
There are no easy answers to this challenge. But securing Social Security and Medicare is not impossible. There are a number of relatively modest and gradual changes to how benefits are paid and how these programs are funded that can keep Social Security and Medicare secure.

GOAL #3: Balance the Federal Budget by 2030
If the money we spend as a nation consistently outpace the money we bring in, the burden of our increasing debt—including the interest we pay on it—will crush us.
America’s public debt-to-GDP ratio is around 74%. That’s higher than at any time in U.S. history, except for a short period after World War II, and more than double what it was in 2007. The budget trajectory we’re on is unsustainable and we ignore this warning at our peril. That’s why America’s leaders need to commit to balancing the federal budget by 2030.


GOAL #4: Make America Energy Secure by 2024
In a global economy, the U.S. can’t expect to completely insulate itself from energy markets. What we can do is focus on the priority that really matters, which is energy security.
No Labels defines energy security as freedom from harm to our economy or national security from the energy decisions of other countries or acts of nature.

Guest Post: A Look At John Kasich by Cindy Lee — LifeLove&Truth

The Medicaid expansion in Ohio helped 500,000+ of Kasich’s constituents, Saved many lives, provided healthcare to 40,000+ poor and unemployed VETERANS, provided drug treatment to keep people out of jail, Provided mental health treatment to thousands some of which would be in Jail, added thousands of new jobs to Ohio and boosted the economy. Kasich…

via Guest Post: A Look At John Kasich by Cindy Lee — LifeLove&Truth